The Fear in Freedom
When I sat down in a room in the Trustee Science Center, I was not quite sure what to expect. "Who Needs Rights, Anyway?" somehow brought images of revolutionaries carrying signs of both the Third Reich and the Marxist designs. The alternative image was that of an American flag draped dramatically behind a podium. I was pleasantly surprised to find neither of these images within the presentation. Unfortunately, I could not hear much of the presentation, either because I was near the back of the room or numerous other reasons. However, some parts of the presentation, particularly the answers to questions, managed to stand out. They are things which I believe everyone in this country could benefit from hearing.
The first statement, although it came after the next one, is one that struck me as odd and vaguely profound. One of the speakers was addressing a question of free speech and press and whether or not it should be oppressed in times of war. He mentioned a simple encounter that reminded me of something one would only see in old movies. While he was in Greece, a man asked him if he was an American, to which the speaker replied "yes." The man, grabbing the speaker by the shirt, exclaimed that the speaker was "letting the dream die." Greece's democracy apparently uses America as a role model, and to see America's conviction falter is an omen of disaster for them.
I had to digest this anecdote, which embodied bits of my own philosophies about American existence. We, as Americans, need to remember that our liberties were not given to us. We achieved them. Those of us who sit by and allow political events and decisions pass us by have done nothing to continue to earn those rights. So many people do not understand politics; they either do not vote at all, or they vote for whomever they are told to vote for. It seems as if they do not realize that their freedom to vote or ignore the vote rests with those who are elected. The American people could easily be losing rights in small ways, those ways that escape the system and move around the Bill of Rights without much ado.
Politically, we could destroy ourselves. However, we are far more likely to oppress ourselves. For example, the concept of politically correct, while often useful and generally appropriate, has been, in my experience, taken almost overboard. Some people are afraid to speak on any controversial matters at all, even if they have nothing to do with areas to which "politically correct" usually applies, such as groups of people. I have come in contact with many people who absolutely refuse to talk about current events because they are afraid to "offend" someone. During the presentation, Dr. Ponder pointed out that there is nothing mentioned in the Constitution about "the right to not be offended." Our country was founded by debate, was geared toward debate, and as long as one can defend one's position, one should not be offended. Without debate, the country cannot compromise, and without the compromise between the majority and the minority, which should balance out, the country is no longer ruled by the majority. It is barely ruled at all.
For these reasons, the two statements mentioned above deserve to be noted. It is my sincere hope that this country learns that it does not need to fear itself, its government, or its people. We should be able to each exercise our rights without being afraid of someone else being offended by our rights. People that contribute to a people's government should not fear the others that do so.